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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: September 26, 2018 11:40 AM
From: Representative Stephen Kinsey and Rep. Greg Rothman
To: All House members
Subject: Secure Waiting Areas in Courthouses
One of the most difficult things a victim or witness of a crime could do is testify in open court against an offender. For victims, this often means re-living the trauma of an attack. For witnesses, it means the recounting of the distressing details of a crime. To add to the already stressful conditions in the courtroom, victims and witnesses may be forced to confront defendants outside the courtroom, potentially leading to intimidation.

In 1998, the Crime Victims Act was enacted to guarantee victims of crime a basic level of dignity as they seek justice for the crimes committed against them. One the guarantees made by the Act was that victims would be provided a safe and secure waiting area in courthouses across the Commonwealth, so that chances of distressing encounters with the defendant, the family of defendants, or their associates is kept at a minimum. However, such accommodations are not always made available. Furthermore, the guarantee of a secure waiting area to victims leaves out another vulnerable group of people: witnesses.

Our goal is to ensure we, as state legislators, are doing all we possibly can to prohibit victim and witness intimidation in Pennsylvania’s courthouses. To this end, we will be introducing a package of bills and we hope that you will join us in sponsoring these vitally important pieces of legislation that were recommended from the district attorney’s office in Philadelphia.

Proposal #1 - The first proposal amends Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) to require all courts in the Commonwealth to provide a secure waiting area for both victims and witnesses in accordance with my second proposal.

Proposal #2 - The second piece of legislation amends the Crime Victims Act to empower the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to perform annual inspections of all courts to ensure compliance with the provisions of this legislation.